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Talking Shop with Reporters: Public Relations Tips from a Panel of Maine Media


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There’s no better way to get candid feedback than to ask. Thanks to the Maine Public Relations Council’s professional development program “Meet the Media,” held Friday, June 14th at UNE in Portland, southern Maine PR pros were able to ask questions of four local reporters who represented daily and weekly newspapers, broadcast TV news and a national trade publication:

  1. Bernie Monegain, Editor, Healthcare IT News

  2. Amy Beveridge, News Director, News 8 WMTW

  3. William Hall, Staff Reporter, The Forecaster

  4. Seth Koenig, Portland Bureau Chief, Bangor Daily News

Each shared their insights and practical tips for building effective relationships with reporters. Their responses to a few of our questions were full of great reminders:

What’s the difference between a good PR person and a bad one? The panel described a good PR person as someone who remembers to stick to the 5 W’s, understands that deadlines are now practically imminent or in many cases, non-existent, and someone who knows the publication and refines their media contact list accordingly. My takeaway: always think about what I can do to be flexible and work within the reporter’s timeframe. In the age of online platforms, asking “What’s your deadline?” is a thing of the past.

Is the press release dead? Fortunately, no. But it needs to be news, not promotional and it shouldn’t be overly complex and full of jargon. As Seth Koenig said, “We’re in journalism because we couldn’t handle science.” If a reporter is forced to Google half of the words in your press release because it’s full of scientific, legal or industry jargon, it’s likely headed for the trash. Any savvy marketer or PR pro should remember to know the audience. Help reporters understand the story first. It’s not going to be published if it’s impossible to read.

What’s a good pitch vs. a bad pitch? Pitches can be perceived as good or bad depending upon the publication. A pitch to a weekly newspaper must align with their publishing schedule. To a trade publication, it needs to fit within the context of their subject matter and be of interest to their readership, which is often very specialized.

In some cases, a second-day pitch can be very effective. Do you have a different angle on a story the publication just ran? Do you have a subject matter expert available to provide a fresh perspective? Bad pitches fall into the “not helpful” category. Don’t pitch coverage of an event if you haven’t cleared the venue for media access. Don’t issue press releases without a spokesperson available to comment.

And a few final pieces of advice from the media panel: use social media (i.e. Twitter) to build and maintain your relationships with reporters. Keep in touch with them by sending updated lists of subject matter experts and make sure that you’re available, helpful and flexible when a reporter needs your help developing their story.

Learn more about taking your story to the media through public relations and communications strategies.

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